The Palestine refugee problem is a grave humanitarian issue. Millions of Palestinian Arabs, descendents of those who fled or were expelled when Israel was created in 1948, are housed in refugee camps and have little or no horizon for improving their situation (see The Palestine Refugee Problem). The Palestinian and Arab position is that these refugees must be allowed to return to Israel, and that they refuse to settle anywhere else out of attachment to their homes, which they left in 1948.
Pro-Zionists claim that in fact the refugee problem has been manufactured and maintained by the Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership. In this view, the refugees are pawns in a political game. The object of the strategy, according to the Zionist view, is to flood Israel with Palestinian Arabs and eliminate the only state in which Jews can exercise their right to self determination. The "Right of Return" claimed insistently by the PLO and Fateh (see for example Full Text of Fatah Foreign Policy Program Palestinian Prisoners' Document) as well as groups such as al-Awda and BADIL, has been a key issue preventing a peace settlement.
The document before us is a frank statement of the moderate Palestinian view concerning the refugee issue. It was delivered by a Fateh official, Sakher Habash at a conference in an-Najah University held some time between 1997 and 1999.
The document shows that Fateh deliberately sabotaged attempts at resettlement and revived the issue of Right of Return and maintained it. The document maintains that the refugee issue is the "winning card" that will bring about the end of Israel. Some highlights of the document:
Use of partial solutions as a tactic, while maintaining the goal:
"Refugees" in Fateh parlance, include Palestinian Arabs whose land had been bought by Jews, even though in all such cases the tenant farmers were compensated for their land:
Keeping the refugee camps intact at all cost and resisting resettlement:
Fooling the UN with false data to prevent resettlement outside the camps:
The PLO revived the dormant refugee issue:
The refugee issue is a key political issue, the "winning card" that will bring about the end of Israel:
Sakher Habash was a member of the Fatah Central Committee and was general deputy of intellectual affairs. He spoke with some authority. It is not known to what extent his views represent official Fateh policy or point of view, but the persistence of the "Right of Return" in Palestinian peace settlement demands, and the failure of the Palestinian National Authority to settle people living in refugee camps in permanent housing, may be taken as indications.
But Habash's address is not just a reflection of his own opinion in any case, since he summarizes the results of a conference sponsored by the Palestinian National Authority , that took place on April 27 1997 in Jericho. According to Habash, the conference emphasized the need to maintain the refugee camps intact for political reasons, and as always, the centrality of the refugee issue. The conclusions include:
The Fateh Web site that displayed this document is no longer on line. The first version of this page was archived in 2001 and the latest in 2007. The seminar in question probably took place about 1998, as references to "netiniaho" (Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in office from 18 June 1996 – 6 July 1999) in the text, and the reference to the 1997 Jericho conference, indicate.
The address referred to certain events and issues in the history of Palestine and Israel from the Palestinian perspective:
Some obvious typographical errors in the original were corrected.
Archived sources of this document include:
June 26, 2010
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The Palestinian Refugee Issue From A FATEH Perspective
Following is the interposition Sakher Habash put forward in the seminar on "the Palestinian Refugee from the Political Parties' Perspective" which was held at Al-Najah University.
At the outset, I would like to thank Al-Najah University administration, especially Dr. Rami and Dr. Najeh who made this opportunity available to get together with some friends whom, albeit our neighbors, we have not met for a long time. This my dear friends is the gravest type of Diaspora.
In fact, I find it quite difficult to discourse on the refugee problem, being a refugee myself. For thirty years, I have been urging the refugee to fight, and we have been writing prose and poetry in various aspects relevant to the refugee issue because our principles in "Fateh" has always been to liberate all our Palestinian national land and to set up a democratic state on it. This clearly demonstrates that there has been no room for the 242, 194 and 181 resolutions in our literature. However, we to our surprise, have to begin rethinking them.
In fact, if I want to express my viewpoint, I will take up the
principle issue, raised by Dr. As'ad who is in favor of the issue of principle,
and the principle does not end at the issue of principle, and the principle does
not end at resolution 194. In our literature, all resolutions which deny the
Palestinians their right in their homeland are false and completely rejected.
This is a principle each of us abides by until we realize our return, I
personally hold that we have to stick to the principle, and at the same time we
must attempt to arrive at periodic solutions as a step toward attaining the
principle viz. Tactic flexibility versus principle adamancy. This, I believe, is
the closest approach to the refugees issue. As "Fateh" had been launched before
the expatriates problem and the occupation problem in the West Bank together
with resolutions 242 and 338 came into existence, resorting to the roots of the
problem is necessary in order to grasp its reality.
When the Zionist and imperialist slogan "Palestine: a land
without people for people without a land" was raised, this seemingly meant
problems would not take place if Jews settled in Palestine. According to the
Zionist view, denial of the substantial existence of the Palestinian people also
mistakenly meant that resistance would not come into being. In other words,
Palestinians would not be a hindrance to re-embodying the Zionist illusion on
the Palestinian land under the name of "Israel". However, substantial facts do
not collapse or disappear. The existence of the Palestinian people has been the
only concrete fact on the Palestinian land. Furthermore, the Palestinian issue
has become part and parcel of the Palestinian people whether those who remained
in the land occupied in 1948, or those who were evacuated and lived as refugees
in the rest of the Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza Strips, or those
who settled as refugees in neighboring Arab countries: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon,
Iraq and Egypt, or those who scattered in the Arab and international Diaspora.
And since 1967, when the Zionist project was completed by occupying all the
Palestinian land and some Arab lands, the expatriates issue has been added to
the refugees issue. The central issue of restoring the legitimate Palestinian
rights has become more complex. It should be noted that the refugees issue had
come into existence a few years before 1948 when the momentum of refuge started
as a result of expulsion or fear or the hope that Arabs would have a decisive
role in the 1948 war. However, the problem actually began when some landowners
sold big areas of land to the Jews, and the British Mandate evacuated the
Palestinian villagers from those lands so the Jews could get hold of them.
Consequently, internal refuge started. Rejecting this policy became the logical
premise of the revolution, and resisting the evacuation policies became the
spark that ignited the national feeling in the villagers.
The 1935 witnessed the villagers' revolutionary momentum which resulted from their being exposed to expulsion. Early in January 1935, a force of the British police tried to expel Al-Zbeidat (Arab Bedouins) from their land where they and their forefathers had lived for centuries. Their land sold by some Lebanese landowners to the Zionists. Al-Zbeidat resisted and fought the British police using the modest potentialities that were available to them. The British force sought support, and the fight caused seven British casualties, five Palestinian casualties and one martyr from the Zbeidat people. These events triggered Sheikh Izz-u-Deen al-Qassam's revolution in 1935, which in turn ignited the big Arab Revolution in Palestine in 1936.
The world then discovered the big lie that Palestine was a
land without people. The Palestinian Revolution had shaken the British empire,
and entailed that a solution to the problem be sought. Consequently, the Bill
Committee was sent, and it suggested dividing Palestine into three zones: an
Arab state annexed to Eastern Jordan, a Jewish state including the coastal area
and the rich plains and a third zone including the holy places which had to
remain under the British Mandate. This partition decision clearly suggested
exchanging land and inhabitants. The Bill Committee put forward that the two
accords with the British government had to clearly state that in case an Arab
wanted to sell the land, tress and crops he owned in the Jewish zone, or vice
versa, the concerned government was bound to by them. The Committee also
recommended that the British had to help in implementing the transfer principle
using force if deemed necessary. This principle applied to the majority or all
Arabs (about 225000,00) living in the suggested Jewish state.
Bin Gorion wrote concerning the recommendations of the Bill Committee, "The coercive transfer of Arabs from the land promised to the Jews will grant us something we have never possessed even in the days of the first and the second Temples. "Let's now remember Bin Gorion's words in the context of the Bill committee's recommendations, "We have never wanted to expel the Arabs from their lands, but since Britain allotted some of the land promised to us to an Arab state it is fair to transfer the them to the Arab state".
The 1948 war made the refugee issue a reality since
establishing a democratic state where all people irrespective of their race,
color and religion lived was not feasible. The refugee issue was inevitable
after the Zionist gangs committed many massacres, which culminated in Deir
Yassin where "plan D" which aimed to transfer all Arabs from the zones assigned
to the Jewish state by resolution 181 was carried out.
Two essential problems regarding the Palestinians and the
Palestinian land resulted from the 1948 war. Firstly, the political problem
which brought about tearing apart the Palestinian land and dispersing the
Palestinians. The Palestinian land has been torn into four parts:
1. The part occupied by the Zionists in 1948, and on which the
established their alleged state.
2. The West Bank which was annexed to and became part of the
Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan.
3. Gaza Strip Which was administratively annexed to Egypt.
4. Al-Himma which was annexed to Syria.
This what has befallen the Palestinian land. As for the
Palestinian people, the refugees problem has been added to its dispersion over
the torn lands. The refugees are those who were expelled from the land occupied
in 1948 and have coercively lived in refugee camps whether they be in Palestine
(West Bank an Gaza Strip) or in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, besides
Secondly, a social problem existed in the refugee camps. In an
endeavor to alleviate this problem , the UN set up the UNRWA which however has
failed to change the utter poverty of the refugees. The social problem has
affected not the Palestinians in refugee camps but each and every Palestinian
house as well. All tempting settlement pr have failed to dissuade the
Palestinians from denouncing the hope and right to return to their homeland. In
fact, the political and social problems have rendered the Palestinian's a
perpetual search for national salvation.
The Palestinian problem was also the decisive and unifying
factor in solving Arab problem. By the same token, liberating Palestine was
given priority in the political programs of various national parties, such as
the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, the Syrian National Social Party, the Arab
Nationalists, The Moslem Brethren Party and Liberation Party. However, the
Marxists have been torn between national and international loyalty.
The slogan "utility is the road to return" prevailed during
that period. The Palestinian who aspired to return had to struggle for the Arab
and Islamic union. The advent of Nassericism (after Jamal Abdel-Nasser, first
president of Egypt) with its slogans of union, a glimpse of hope dawned from
Egypt. President Nasser was held to held to lead Arabs to victory. Despite the
political defeat of the trilateral invasion against, occupying Gaza by the
Israeli has effected a complete change in the Palestinian ideology. Appearance
of the resistance against the Israeli occupation in Gaza brought about the
beginning of the research for the Palestinian ego. The slogan "unity is the road
to return" began to fade away. The social and political problems constituted the
Fateh allegiance controversy. This was firs practiced in the battle against the
Israeli occupation in Gaza. Gazian and refugees who adopted varied political,
national, Islamic and Marxist ideologies pioneered the armed struggle. However,
the union between Egypt and Syria, which brought back the slogan "union is the
road to return", gave birth to armed struggle and public liberation war
ideologies, the beginning of the Fateh national, revolutionary ideology. A
controversial interaction between action towards union and action towards return
had to be created. It should be noted that controversial complementation is what
makes every accurate and honest action towards union contribute to realizing
return, and vise versa. Action towards union took place in the Arab territories
whereas action towards return was launched against the enemy from our land.
Fateh which put the horse in front of the cart emphasized form the outset that
the road to Palestine is the road to union. In other words, the struggle to
liberate Palestine leads to union, for the Zionist existence in the Arab world
aims to tear Arab countries apart and create underdevelopment and foreign
allegiance. Implementing this slogan stipulated that the Palestinians should be
the leading forefront in the liberation battle, and that they should practice
their independent Palestinian national resolution. Fateh has, therefore, focused
on constituting the solid revolutionary organization around which the
Palestinians who faithfully believe in the inevitable victory would cluster.
Ideology and practice should unanimously go together in this orientation. The
theory should harmoniously be compatible with its instrument of implementation,
i.e. Fateh organization. Here where we can initiate our debate on the
Palestinian refugee in the Fateh ideology, the Fateh organization and the Fateh
The first declaration by the end of 957 consisting the first
document in Fateh literature. The issue of the Palestinian refugee is the core
of the Fateh ideology at its birth. Following are some excerpts of the text:
"The consecutive events have proved that the Palestinian
people still survive. Despite poverty, sickness and the miserable living
conditions, our people still faithfully and obstinately defend their rights.
They have not succumbed to the imperialists scourges in 948, and despite
falsehood and deception, the slogans they upheld remained the most authentic
measure of nationalism and revolutionism".
"The Palestinian Arab people suffer the bitterness of losing
their country, dispersion and the set-back. It is they who survive the tragedy
and its harsh consequences. They have Been deprived of freedom and dignity. In
addition, they are still exposed to various diseases and social and
"The harsh living circumstances in camps and other areas of Diaspora have negatively affected the psychological makeup of the set back people. Individualism has become the most noticeable characteristics of a lot to them. Some have tried to forget the consequences of the set-back by indifference, despair or selfishness which are natural diseases in catastrophe-stricken people. Fateh will deal with these aspects with its revolution which will bring back confidence to the dismayed, for our people are willing to wage a liberation revolution to restore the usurped country".
"The Palestinian people have been suffering for too long. The
set-back has not weakened their determination and solidarity. In Gaza, Khan
Younis, Nablus, Jineen, Toulkarm, Jerusalem, Hebron as well as in all
Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps, our people have remained
faithful to their country, adamant to their loyalty and self-dependent pledging
to retaliate and thwart all imperialist conspiracies aiming to liquidate their
case. There will be no expulsion, no partitioning, no displacement and no
settling in other countries".
The hierarchy of the revolutionary structure constitutes the
second document in Fateh literature. It comprises the revolutionary work in the
political and organizational spheres. In its preemie, it states under the title
"We have been evacuated from our beloved homeland with the
hope to return in a few days, yet we reaped but bitterness. Hopeful tears have
given way to tears of despair".
"Thus our people have been dispersed in all countries,
suffering misery and humiliation in Diaspora, without a country, without
dignity, without leadership, without hope, without weapons, without guidance,
without support, without esteem, without bondage".
Under the title "We must make a move", the declaration
regarding the hierarchy resumes as follows: "from this terrible reality and from
this "wreckage", and through the search for existence and dignity, the
revolutionary forefront has to assume its responsibilities, draw its way and
determine its march prudently and away from improvisation and arbitrariness,
taking the surrounding circumstances into consideration and being aware of all
the whims and inclination affecting our case and people locally, Arab-wise and
Under the title "Revolution is the solution", the statement
concerning the hierarchy states: The forefront has not found another way to
rescue our people out of this misery, revive our case and purify our land from
the atrocious Zionist and imperialist occupation but to revolt. Revolution is
the only means imposed by the harsh circumstances and the historical and logical
facts of our people and our case.
The revolution is our only choice. It is the only way to
proclaim our will and to impose our existence. It helps us put and end to this
bitter submission and to the terrible life led by the people of the set-back
everywhere. Revolution helps our people restore self-confidence and ability and
win the respect of others".
The hierarchy of the revolutionary structure has made
liberating all Palestine its pivotal goal so that it can become part of the big
Arab world. To achieve this end, the hierarchy has specified the organizational
responsibilities as follows:
1. Recruiting the active and revolutionary members of the
set-back people everywhere, and preparing them to be one solid unit within the
general Movement framework and to shoulder the revolutionary task of liberating
2. Mobilizing our people with all their potentials in a
comprehensive revolutionary manner to lead the Arab struggle to liberate our
usurped land; at the same time, mobilizing all Arab and other friends'
capabilities to support our struggle in the liberation battle.
3. Creating the favourable conditions that make the West Bank
the central base from which the revolution is launched.
The hierarchy has also emphasized the oneness of the
Palestinian case and rejected participating it into cases of refugees, boarders,
truce, relief, water and others. These should be viewed as branching out the
principal case and resulting from the Jewish occupation of the Arab land.
In October 1959, Fateh published the first issue of a monthly
magazine entitled "Call of Life 'Our Palestine'". The signature "Fateh at the
end of the article entitled "Our Opinion" is the only clue to the movement, The
rest of the content comprised a selection of news and opinions supporting the
Fateh stance. Emphasis was on expressions directly related to the refugee issue,
such as "return, the dispersed people, people of the set-back and direct
expression, the refugees.
In the first issue of "Our Palestine", Fateh wrote:
"We, the people of the set-back, lack neither the true
awareness nor the national revolution... The hard days and bitter conditions we
suffer bear witness that we are as adamant as destiny, and that we do not
exchange our country for all the riches of the earth... This is what urges us to
be on the alert for the sacred liberation battle at the time we assign, not one
imposed on us... we have been waiting for so long, and a generation as old as
the set-back has come into being, and many of those waiting to return have
"And thus, it is high time, you, the youth of the set-back,
returned to your fellow citizens to be forefront of the Arab people in the
struggle to restore our blessed land, otherwise you will remain away from the
In the same issue and on pages 16-17, the magazine published
eight pictures showing the miserable conditions of living in tents and between
barbwires, and under the title "The refugees", the magazine wrote in big
letters; From the innermost of those patient hearts which are filled with the
determination to return arise the most grandeur examples of heroism. Our people
will conquer death and snatch life from the talons of the ordeal in order to
offer the best possible meaning of will of the people who are determined to
live, sacrifice, return to and salvage our usurped land".
With regard to the refugees' refusal of settling projects, and
under the title "In the tent", the magazine published on page 23 of the fourth
issue an interview with one of the refugees who said: "I quite confidently say
that the refugees will achieve victory despite the Jews' fortifications and
weapons". In a reply to a question about the ragged tent, he says: "This tent is
the most bitter lesson that reminds us of the oppression and humiliation we have
suffered and the alarm bell that enhance my sons' firm determined to return to
their country. My sons have more enthusiasm the do.
After 1976, the momentum of the Palestinian had increased in
the occupied territories, liberating Palestine became the central and most
general issue in Fateh ideology and practice.
The Palestinian Refugee in Fateh
In spite of the comprehensives of the Palestinian national
case and its recruiting the Palestinian people in general, Fateh, from the
outset, focused on the set-back people. The hierarchy of the revolutionary
structure stated: "The Movement has its own organization whose branches operate
in accordance with the general plan of the revolutionary action. This involves
all the aspects that prepare the Palestinian Arab people to launch their
revolution to liberate the usurped land. The leadership guides this organization
wit a high committee known as "The High Central Committee" which was formed
since the beginning of the Movement and would develop with it."
Under the title "Districts Committees", the hierarchy remarks:
"In any district where the set-back people live, an organizational base is
created. This base which will undertake organizing and realizing the Movement's
goals is called the "District Committee."
Since its constitution, the "High Central Committee" included
1) The organizers who continued in the organizational work and
who started the armed revolutionary activities on the first of January 1965 are:
1- Yasser Arafat Abu Ammar): a refugee from Jerusalem.
2- Khalil Al-Wazir (Abu Jihad): a refugee from Ramleh.
3- Forauq Al-Qadoumi (Abu-l-Lutuf): a refugee from Jafa, and
originally from Jeensafout(Nablus).
4- Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyaad): a refugee from Jafa.
5-Mahmoud Abbas(Abu Mazin): a refugee from Safad.
6- Khaled Al-Hassan (Abu-s-Sa'id): a refugee from Haifa.
7- Mahmoud Yousef Al-Najjar (Abu Yousef): a refugee from Yibna
8- Abdel-Fattah Al Hmoud (Abu Salah): a refugee from Al-Teen
9- Mamdouh Saidam (Abu Sabri): a refugee from 'Aqir (Al-
10- Waleed Al- Nasser Al-Hassan (Abu Ali-Iyad): from Qalqeelia.
Membership was completed by direct voting in the third
conference of the Movement as three members, Abdul-Fatah Al- Hmoud, Mamdouh
Saidam and Abu Ali-Iyad were martyred. The following members joined the "Central
1- Kamal 'Udwaan: a refugee from Barbara Village.
2- Nimer Saleh (Abu Saleh): a refugee from Qoulia (Al-Lid).
And according to the regulations, the following members were
1- Mahammad Ghuneim (Abu Maher): from Jerusalem.
2- Hayel Abdel-Hameed (Abu Al-Houl): a refugee from Safad.
The centrality of revolutionary organization and ideology
began to fade away after the Zionist invasion in 1967 when general and specific
motives have fused in the Palestinian comprehensiveness whether under occupation
or in diaspora. The camps in diaspora maintained and escalated the revolution
whereas the refugee camps and all the Palestinian people in the occupied
territories side by side waged the "Intifida" which together with "Al-Husien
rockets" falsified the strategic security concept. Consequently, America and the
world Zionists have started the search for what warrants the continuity of
Israel in the region, and hence President Push and James Baker's invitation to
the International Peace Conference in Madrid.
The Palestinians were led to their destiny as part of a joint Palestinian Jordanian delegation with no representatives of the PLO or negotiators from Jerusalem or Palestinians in diaspora. The refugee issue was excluded from the bilateral track and was included in the multilateral track so that it would become a regional case rather than a Palestinian-Israeli one, At Oslo, it was agreed that this case would be one of the final solution issues.
The Palestinian Refugee and the Political Settlement From Fateh Perspective
Since the peaceful settlement is based on international
resolutions, Fateh considers the security Council resolutions 242 and 338
together with the General Assembly resolutions 181 and 194 to represent the
legal boundary imposed by international legitimacy on the Palestinian people.
Despite the fact that these resolutions do injustice to our national legitimate
rights, yet they have become part and parcel of the peace process set out in
Madrid while PLO was deliberately absented. At Oslo, PLO played the role of a
full partner being the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People.
Fateh participation in the peace process assuming its historical responsibility
which does not end at the stages specified in the Oslo Accord, but continue till
a comprehensive, just and constant peace is achieved. The final solutions issues
which include the chronic refugees problem among others, entails serious
participation in the negotiations after the expatriates issue, which is much
easier, has been solved, Procrastination in solving the refugee issue helps
Israel allege that since the expatriates' return to the Palestinian Authority
lands is still a hurdle, the refugees' return to their lands in Israel is an
impossible one. Anyone who reviews the Israelis' interposition during the
multilateral negotiations concerning the refugees issue can observe the Israeli
ready-made lies to absolve themselves the collective expulsion crime which took
place before and after 1948 by tying this with what they allege to have happened
to the Jews in the Arab countries, This is in addition to the ready-made bill
which they claim to show the value of Palestinian refugees' fabricated in such a
way that requires the Arab countries to debit the Israelis the difference when
the account is squared. And under the people exchange rubric, they will hide the
racial crimes they committed in Deir Yassin and other villages.
Fateh stance which should be adhered to in the final solution negotiations
calls for abiding by the international resolutions.
To us, the refugees issue is the winning card which means the
end of the Israeli state. They have, therefore, refused to solve it this way.
Meanwhile, we should not seek negotiable solutions. And as we see netiniaho up
the tree, we should neither help him down nor send him a safe guard rope.
Adherence to the principle regarding the refugee issue and Jerusalem is what may
enable us to exercise pressure in the future to remove settlements. Netiniaho is
trying to expedite solving the three issues in order to impose his own solution.
Our real power rests in our abiding the PLO which together with the cabinet will
not resume negotiations unless a real revolutions in the settlement principle
takes place and settling in Abu Ghuneim Mount is stopped. Thus, we will kill two
important birds in one stone.
The status of Jerusalem is negotiable and resolution 225
states that it is an occupied land. Besides, settlements, including Abu Ghuneim,
are built on occupied lands and should therefore be removed. As we should not
agree on leaving the settlements where they are, we cannot impose the return of
the huge number of the refugees. But we can utilize the refugees' card
politically to establish the independent Palestinian states in the territories
occupied in 1967. The transitory solution of the refugees issue in the future is
through confederation with Jordan. I visualize the future in establishing a
democratic state by peaceful means. This will come true when the Zionist
illusion comes to an end, the thing that has begun to occur in the Labor Party
and Merits. To Netiniaho, on the other hand, Zionism has witnessed resurrection,
and we consequently need the support o other Israelis to wage a new war against
Zionism if they want to live peacefully in the Arab and Islamic context. It is a
long battle whose essential component is the Palestinian refugee who live in
camps. This issue is worth debating in the PLO context since it is, more than
others, concerned with protecting the refugee. Any parties outside this context
may have some jurisprudence which may (un) intentionally serve the Zionist
project. PLO is the body which has made the decision that the refugee camps in
the Palestinian Authority territories are on a bar with those in other Arab
countries since this Authority, and until the independent state is established,
and the refugees problem is solved by return or compensation or both, remain to
be a host authority. Consequently, any attempt to remove the Palestinian camp
which symbolizes the full Palestinian right is a wrong thing. Some try to link
the human solution with the difficult situations suffered by the Palestinians in
camps. In fact the Palestinians face the same situations in cities and villages
as we all live under occupation. This is true of the Palestinian Authority
territories. The continual siege, closure, killing and dispersion makes us enjoy
only a short break to take breath in this big concentration camp. The
participation of camps in elections is a big mistake as we have to spare no
effort to maintain them intact rather than melt them. Continuation of UNRWA
which was formed by an international resolution is important, for its
disappearance nullifies resolution 194. UNRWA has to continue to shoulder its
responsibilities at the same level. The cabinet decision to change the name
'Returnee Department' into Refugee whose case we must solve. Settling is a crime
desisted by the Palestinians and Arabs alike despite their many endeavors. As a
young kid living in Balata camp, I remember when they tried to exchanged our
tents with brick-built rooms, we resisted and many people were sent to jail and
settling was rejected.
In 1962, I graduated as a geologist and water expert and I was
sent to work at Al-Azraq Groundwater Project founded by the UN. The project
aimed to make available spacious areas and enough water or the settling process.
Some engineers and I deliberately falsified the results in order to spoil the
project and eventually refugees could not settle there. I was sure none of our
people would agree to go there. However, one Palestinian, from a village called
'Sakbi', agreed to settle at Al-Azraq after being tempted by ten acres of land
and a well. His 15-years-old son used to help us with explosives while doing
some geophysical research in 963. After doing my high studies in the US, I
returned and found that the refugees' son had become a commando and martyred at
Al-Karama Battle. His commando name was Zarzour.
This point to the fact that whoever accepts settling, his son
does not. This is the real situation which urges us to maintain the camp intact.
The national dialogue plays a significant role, but we should not forget for a
second that the Refugees Committee which operates within the PLO and the
National Authority is sole representative now. I think Dr. As'ad who has revived
the case after a period of inertia, and it has become his priority so that the
Palestinian refugee can play an essential role in his perseverance as that he
did during the Intifada. Though he s a refugee, he has been struggling to defeat
the Israeli occupation and not to return to his homeland. Thus the refugee's
role has been quite prominent in supporting our great cities and villages in
their perseverance. These days, However, the refugee has a more important which
we have to maintain. I do reiterate that we should not try to bring Netiniaho
down tree but to leave him to his destiny; he may fall and break his neck or leg
or we enhance our perseverance. In the elections, we have to distinguish between
the refugee who lives within the framework of municipalities and rural councils
and that who lives in camps. The former has to participate directly in the local
elections, but the latter should participate in services committees the camps
here and in other Arab countries so that the refugee's dignity can remain to be
the title of the future solution.
The national orientation was in favor of consolidating public
democracy through conducting direct elections of local municipalities councils
and rural councils. Participation of the refugees was offered and two viewpoints
cropped up, the thing that called for holding a workshop to arrive at a unified
national position. The final reports and recommendations of the workshop were in
favor of the camps' participation in the local elections.
Upon the decree of Legislative Assembly, a workshop was
suggested to discuss whether or not the Palestinian camps should participate in
local elections. The workshop involved experts in politics, law and others
concerned with the refugee issue and was sponsored by the Ministry of Local
Authority. The workshop was conducted in Jerico on 26\4\1997, and many papers
were offered and discussed by the participants.
The papers addressed many aspects of the refugee issue as a central and essential case of the entire Palestinian Arab people. The terrible inhuman conditions of the Palestinian camps were also discussed. The papers focused on the responsibility of the international community regarding the Palestinian people's tragedy, and the UN's failure to perform its obligations according to resolution 194. The papers and interpositions emphasized the following:
First: The refugee issue is the core of the Palestinian case and it is an essential part of its conclusive national rights.
Second: Adherence to the refugees' right to return to their homeland, being their natural and legitimate right endorsed by the international community, especially UN resolution 194 for 1949.
Third: Emphasis on utter rejection of changing the political, legal and geographical existence of the Palestinian camps wherever they are as well as rejection all settling or melting projects whoever suggests them.
Fourth: Emphasis on the necessity that UNRWA play its role as a token of the international community's responsibility for the Palestinian people's crises until a just and constant peace which warrants their conclusive national rights is established.
Fifth: Asking the international community to provide the necessary financial funds to help UNRWA continue to resume its responsibilities and develop its services, and rejecting transferring its jurisdictions to any other party.
Sixth: Asking Arab countries to ensure the Palestinian refugees' political and civil rights wherever they live, and maintain the political, legal and geographical situations of the Palestinian camps intact.
Seventh: Emphasis on the oneness and legitimacy of the Palestinian people's representation (PLO being their sole legitimate representative) whether they live.
Eight: Asking PLO and the Palestinian National Authority to assume their roles as regards the Palestinian camps in the occupied territories and diaspora, as those camps have their own special conditions and urgent needs.
Ninth: Emphasis on discriminating between the transitory settlement issues and those of the final settlement, as regards the expatriates' issue which is part of the transitory phase, and the refugees' issue which is part of the final settlement.
The papers addressed at length the issue of participating in
the local elections on the part of the Palestinian camps. In this respect, the
participants recommended the following:
First: Rejection of using the camps' into the neighboring cities and villages.
Second: Emphasizing the camps' rights to conduct their local elections to elect public authorities which reflect the political and legal realities of those camps.
Third: PLO and the Palestinian National Authority should
assume the responsibility of laying down a special system for electing the
camps' authorities and determining their organization and referentiality.
Fourth: Elections of the local councils in cities and villages
should not coincide with those of the camps' authorities.
The participants expressed their deep gratitude and regard to President Arafat for sponsoring that workshop and thanked the Ministry of local Authority for its contribution to its success, and they also thanked the Refugees' Department in PLO and members of the National and those of the Legislative Assembly and the High Committee for local elections.